Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 21st
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And Betty Makes Three

dining_bettyseatInnBetty Burgers Eat Inn on Pacific storms out of the gate with dynamite menu additions and a full bar

When Betty Burgers' sister restaurant Vida left town, Betty moved right in to the space on Pacific Avenue, leaving her shiny old Airstream trailer right on the new patio. Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and mashed potatoes with gravy are just a taste of the down-home-style comfort food that Betty's slingin' at her new Eat Inn.

The restaurant was packed on opening weekend, and a week later during a mid-week late lunch it was almost at capacity. The smiling, energetic staff was still learning the ropes – there was no service on the patio for ten minutes and then we were double-covered. A few days later, service was perfect on a very busy dinner shift.

You'll still find the same natural hormone-and antibiotic-free burgers with mayo-based lubes, sweet potato fries and hand-packed milkshakes that have made Betty Burgers so popular. At the new location there are a substantial number of tasty additions. The Kids' menu ($2.49 to $3.95) has expanded too, offering grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

At Eat Inn, lube is slathered on eight new sandwiches ($6.95 to $8.95). Fresh roasted turkey, crunchy fried shrimp, grilled smoked ham and cheese, and grilled fresh vegetables are some of the choices. Tramp on a Roll ($7.95) was served in a huge, soft bun whose surface was attractively crackled like baked desert soil. The gentle aroma of barbecue sauce arose from a generous mound of tender, slow-roasted pulled pork, underneath which was lemony coleslaw full of biting red onions and sweet apples. Moisture in the excellent slaw quickly soaked the bread and puddled in the gingham paper-lined basket. You can also enjoy these ingredients bun-free in a Pork in the Hay Salad ($8.95) topped with fresh cotija cheese.

The ambitious Taco Teaser Salad ($9.95) began with a mound of shredded cabbage encircled by tender mixed greens and crisply fried tortilla strips topped with roasted corn

kernels, black beans, crunchy red onions, tomatoes, cilantro, guacamole, crumbled cotija, and thick slices of smoky grilled chicken breast. I found the chipotle-ranch dressing a bit spicy but otherwise bland in its surroundings.

Fortunately my favorite Signature Cocktails from Vida remain on the menu, including the perfectly muddled minty Mojohito ($6.50) and Hendrixy ($8), a tart, bitter, sweet, stimulating combination of cucumber, lime and Hendrix gin.

A cup of rich chicken noodle soup, Liquid Love ($2.95), was brimming with rigatoni pasta, chunky mirepoix and a touch of cream.

The five entrées are priced between nine and 12 dollars, except for The Slab o' Beef ($23.95), a 14-ounce natural rib-eye steak. They are served with choice of fries, coleslaw, seasonal vegetables, mashed veggies or mashed potatoes.

I chose the Piping hot Mac Daddy ($8.95) which also featured rigatoni, dusted with tiny bacon bits and fine breadcrumbs in a creamy cheese sauce, threads of which stretched from the casserole to my mouth. The mashed veggies included bits of carrot and were surprisingly appetizing with a melody of earthy flavors.

Betty's Eat Inn, 1222 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-7056. Full bar. Open daily at 11 a.m., until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Longer weekend hours may be on the horizon.

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